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The perfect brew: Coffee, charity and connectivity

Brisbane’s social enterprise café brings businesses, charity and high speed internet together. 

In the northern Brisbane suburb of Aspley, Cup from Above café is doing things differently.

Yes, it serves great coffee (it’s one of the top 15 Brisbane coffee destinations according to popular app BeanHunter) but it is also reimagining the traditional coffee shop on multiple levels.

The inspiring mission of Cup from Above is to help the chronically unemployed find jobs.

The café acts as a training centre, helping people who have disabilities or who have recently left prison to learn how to be baristas.

It also serves as a drop-in centre for those in crisis, with access to chaplains who provide a helping hand to those affected by homelessness or domestic violence.

These chaplains talk to up to 11 people a day, listening to their problems and referring them to organisations that may be able to help.

Image credit: Cup from Above

Coffee with a shot of connectivity

On the receiving end of the quality coffee being served up by Cup from Above’s trainee baristas are many local business people who drop in to take advantage of the café’s free wireless internet.

Founder and CEO Adam James is very used to seeing a variety of people in his establishment, including freelancers and local workers who hold meetings at his venue.

“We got access to services over the nbn™ network about a year ago,” he explains, “so people know they can come here to access high speed, reliable internet.”

For business owner Aleem Ali, one of the café’s repeat business customers, Cup From Above provides him with an opportunity to support a local venue while getting his own work done. 

Aleem’s role as manager of a national initiative called Welcoming Cities often sees him travelling. Whenever he’s in Brisbane he is able to base himself from Cup from Above.

“Because I have a national role I tend to work from wherever – my ‘office’ fits inside my Crumpler bag. I come to Cup from Above because it has a great atmosphere, free wi-fi and good coffee, with the added bonus of supporting a great social enterprise,” says Aleem, whose job involves working with local governments to enable refugees and new immigrants to settle smoothly into their new community.

Aleem is able to connect at Cup from Above and use the location as a mobile office to meet with clients, make Skype calls, upload files. He also communicates with his own online community with the help of the café’s services over the nbn network.

“In the past I’d tether my phone to my laptop if I was working at a café. Now I really notice the difference of being able to use wi-fi.” 

Top left: Cup from Above's directors. Other images taken from Cup from Above's online image gallery. Image courtesy: Cup from Above

A generous helping of free wi-fi

According to Adam James, having fast internet has made it much easier to manage his large team of 60 volunteers.

“We have wi-fi in the café and in the office out the back. Most volunteers only come in once a week so we work from cloud based services such as Google Docs and Basecamp. Staff can just log in at the café – it’s seamless.”

Providing free wireless internet is a social service for Cup From Above as well.

“Homeless people are able to come here and have access to broadband,” explains Adam, “they can contact their families, apply for jobs and look up crisis accommodation.”

The free wireless connection to services over the nbn™ network also make it easier for social workers and chaplains to help their clients.

“We jumped at [getting connected to services over the nbn™ network] straight away, we really wanted to be able to provide high speed internet. We even have some local nbn workers who come by for coffee and were able to help me out when I had questions.”

Cup From Above is one of a new breed of Australian coffee shops – part charity initiative, part provider of the amazing coffee that Australia is renowned for, and part mobile office for a range of business people.

This set up, particularly the supply of a social, central setting from which small businesses can work online, is something that we can expect to see more of as cafés evolve to meet the needs of a changing society and embrace an increasingly-connected digital economy.  

Fast broadband is changing how small business owners operate. Check out how other Australians are ditching the office in favour of a more mobile work style in our special blog series.

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